In 2022 the world’s largest ever cruise ship, Royal Caribbean International’s Wonder of the Seas debuted. A year later her hold on that title is tenuous. In the Meyer Turku shipyard, Finland, the interior spaces are being finished and furbished aboard the Icon of the Seas. The first of two Icon-class ships, Icon of the Seas is set to steal the crown from her sister vessel and set sail as the largest cruise ship on the globe. With titans of the cruise industry, such as Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises, launching the largest cruise ships known to humankind, passengers may be wondering what newer brands entering the market can offer.

According to the hotel brands looking to crack the cruise market, small ship cruising has plenty to offer passengers. They and others are taking their style lead from luxury yacht interior design. From greatly expanding the private spaces on board to picking up on the latest luxury yacht interior design trends, the new generation of cruise design offers…

More space

While higher tonnage cruise ships have more square footage in total, the sleek yacht-like cruise ships offer a much higher ratio of space-per-guest. Aiming to import the intimate feel of a private yacht, the design of these vessels emphasises spacious suites.

Luxury yachts provide a higher ratio of space-per-guest on board

Industry-leading hotel brand Four Seasons is entering the cruise market with Four Seasons Yachts. They’ve tapped the expertise of cruise industry greats Tillberg Design of Sweden to lead the design of their guest suites. These, they promise will be among the largest at sea. Guest suite sizes start at 54 square metres with ceiling heights of over 2.4 metres – much higher than the low ceilings of typical cruise suites.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Orient Express Silenseas will feature 54 70-square-metre suites. Renowned Architect Maxime d’Angeac, who has already worked on the revival of the iconic Orient Express train, will design the luxurious interiors. Evrima, the first Ritz Carlton superyacht, boasts 55-square-metre suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces.

More unique experiences

Luxury yachts are designed to reflect their owner’s preferences. The aim of each new design is not to follow previous trends but to create something fresh and completely customised to personal taste. The Orient Express Silenseas design will evoke the era of bohemian glamour, when artists rubbed shoulders with royalty along the French Riviera. Not only will the vessel offer entertainment in its Amphitheatre-Cabaret but guests will be able to truly make music within a private recording space.

Orient Express Silenseas will pay homage to an era of bohemian glamour in its interior design

Aman’s ‘Project Sama’, a 600-ft vessel developed in partnership with Cruise Saudi, will take spa spaces to the next level. Sama means peace of mind in Sanskrit, and guests will certainly be able to find that in the onboard spa. The rejuvenation space will feature a Japanese garden, which will accentuate the area’s atmosphere of relaxation.

Guests aboard the Four Seasons Yacht line will be able to customise their already spacious living quarters. The cruise line will lay out the suite arrangement in an ‘extensive network of joining suite combinations’. This means guests can adapt their residence, expanding their suite into a ‘villa-like’ home at sea. Anticipating that their guests may require space for co-travellers not usually accommodated in traditional cruises, eleven suites will have dedicated rooms for staff such as security or administrative assistants. Marc-Henry Cruise Holding Principal Philip Levine has said of their decision to forgo a Cruise Director to arrange activities, ‘We don’t tell you what to do. We want to know what you want to do.’

Tillberg Design of Sweden is behind the villa-inspired suite designs on board Four Seasons Yachts

More luxurious adventure

The widespread trend for experiential travel, seen in the rapid rise in the popularity of expedition cruising, has also gripped the world of luxury yacht design. Private yachts are now being designed to accommodate a range of high-end gadgets, water toys, all-terrain vehicles and more for owners to enjoy.

The new wave of ultra-luxury yacht-like cruise vessels have tapped into this trend. ‘Project Sama’, will include two helipads built on the top of the vessel. The first Four Seasons Yacht will have a transverse marina filled with water toys. Guests on board will also have access to a sea limousine for excursions, which they can plan with a dedicated marina team.  French luxury cruise line Ponant has fitted their elegant sailing yacht Le Ponant with space for a variety of water toys, including diving equipment.

Expedition cruises have always led the way in high-end gadgets, enhancing their specialised vessel design to allow their guests to deeply explore the farthest reaches of the earth. Recently revived cruise line Crystal Cruises pioneered the trend of carrying submarines on board its luxury yacht Crystal Espirit. Ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn included a submarine aboard Venture, their first foray into the expedition market. Viking designed a space on board its two expedition cruise ships Octantis and Polaris, The Hangar, from which to launch their submersibles and tenders. This flat space brings a measure of accessible design to the expedition cruise world, where tenders and other supplementary vessels often have to be boarded in challenging and unstable conditions.

Want more of this?

Are you interested in learning about the latest innovations and trends in cruise design? Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe unites the cruise interiors community for two days of networking, sourcing and insightful conference sessions in London. Find out about the next event here.